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My Fight with Sugar

Sugar is one of the most addictive substances on the planet and recently much research has been done proving it to be one of the leading causes of obesity in both children and adults. The problem is a global one and its prevalence has increased at an alarming rate. According to the WHO..

“…Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. Overweight and obesity, as well as their related diseases, are largely preventable. Prevention of childhood obesity therefore needs high priority.”

Chocolate bars used to be my nemesis, they would actually call me from the kitchen and beg me to eat them (no really!) I would have probably eaten 2 bars a week and perhaps a few sweets, definitely at least one sugary drink and I would have considered my diet a good one because I also ate lots of veggies. That was until I gave up eating all refined sugars.

Slowly I started to realise how much sugar we consume every day. It’s in almost every packaged product on the shelf and, if it’s sugar-free then usually it has some chemical, artificial sweetener that I just can’t even pronounce. With my beady eyes I read and re-read and Googled ingredients to find the hidden sugars and those quirky hidden sugar names that companies love to use; syrups, fructose, maltose, galactose, dextrose (basically anything ending in ‘ose is a sugar). I found them in sliced bread, beans, crackers, sauces, noodles, pasta, healthy baby biscuits and healthy bars…. The list went on and on and on. It’s no wonder we are all addicted to sugar, how could we not be when its in the majority of foods we consume.

Knowing what you are eating for me is the way to go. Yes, it is more time consuming to make a 10-minute pasta sauce than to open a jar and heat, but, it is beyond satisfying to know you are eating delicious, fresh and healthy meals every day. Yes, I still eat treats and give my baby treats, but they are on occasion, are home made and are always refined sugar-free. It has just become a way of life now and I can’t imagine ever craving a bar of bounty anymore since I recreated it in the kitchen.

Just remember, natural sugar is still a sugar, however, the difference between a teaspoon of refined sugar and the natural sugar in dried or fresh fruit is the presence of minerals and vitamins. By no means do natural sugars give us free reign to spoil a sweet tooth rotten, we still have to watch our intake of sugars regardless of the kind we are eating.

Guidelines from the SACN on consumption of sugars for children – The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition UK

Free Sugars

Free sugars are those added to food (e.g. sucrose (table sugar), glucose) or those naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices, but exclude lactose in milk and milk products.

SACN has recommended that free sugars account for no more than 5% of daily energy intake. This is:

  1. 19g or 5 sugar cubes for children aged 4 to 6.
  2. 24g or 6 sugar cubes for children aged 7 to 10.
  3. 30g or 7 sugar cubes for 11 years and over, based on average population diets.

SACN were asked by the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency to examine the latest evidence on the links between consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, starch and fibre and a range of health outcomes, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bowel health and tooth decay, to ensure the Government’s position on consumption was up to date.

Through this review, SACN found that:

  1. High levels of sugar consumption are associated with a greater risk of tooth decay.
  2. The higher the proportion of sugars in the diet, the greater the risk of high energy intake.
  3. Drinking high-sugar beverages results in weight gain and increases in BMI in teenagers and children.
  4. Consuming too many high-sugar beverages increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Elaina Ryan

    Thanks for this post! I have an almost five-month-old so this is all ahead of me very soon, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the healthiest foods to give to her. At the same time as learning about feeding her I’m researching childcare and seeing things on menus like rusks, rich tea biscuits and compote that I fear may be full of sugar. Any advice on how to broach avoiding these foods with the crèches? Would it be normal for parents to maybe sub in rice cakes or fresh fruit instead? Thank you!

  • Hi Elaina. When it comes to creches just stay firm in how you want your child to be fed. If you don’t want her to be given sugary snacks then tell them and they will respect your wishes 🙂 I made little treats for Oscar as an alternative and just sent him in with those which they never minded. Its crazy how much sugar is in baby biscuits and rusks. Make your own and send them in with her. There’s lot’s of healthy alternatives and hopefully the creche you choose will have a healthy policy anyway 🙂 Hope that helps x